Eroticism, Ethics and Reading: Angela Carter in Dialogue with Roland Barthes

Eroticism, Ethics and Reading: Angela Carter in Dialogue with Roland Barthes

This book is a contribution to reader-response theory now available as an e-book. It is written from a semiotic, psychoanalytic and post-structuralist perspective.

Abstract

The starting-point of this study is a reading of Angela Carter's novel Nights at the Circus as a metafiction on reading and the pleasures and ethics reading involves. As such the thesis is a contribution to reader-response theory. In the course of my research, I have also come to see the novel as a response to and a critique of Roland Barthes's meditations on the pleasure of the text.

The study Begär och etik (Desire and Ethics) by the Swedish Lacanian psychoanalyst Jürgen Reeder has helped me to formulate the relation between pleasure and ethics, and a Lacanian understanding of psychoanalysis is the framework within which I work. But, since I am dealing with a specific situation, the reading act, I have looked for further support and explanations in the work of Julia Kristeva (Tales of Love and Powers of Horror), Leo Bersani (The Freudian Body) and Jacques Derrida ("My Chances/Mes Chances").

My argument is that Carter displaces, without rejecting, Barthes's plaisir du texte as founded on an aesthetics of negativity. In my reading of the novel, Carter proposes in its stead an erotics and ethics of the Lacanian real. It is a reading that involves a critique of Barthes's reading in the imaginary and his subsequent failure to recognize the text's alterity. In Carter's alternative, a lover of reading travels with pangs and delights through the imaginary, the symbolic and the real, and the ethical relation to the text is marked by the recognition of the Other. These two reading positions are further related to the concept jouissance, which in the case of Barthes is characterized by a phallic, organ-oriented jouissance and, in the case of Carter, by a jouissance in/of the body and in/of being.


Published 1996
140 pages
Language: English
ISBN 91-22-01704-6

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